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Posts Tagged ‘David Mamet’

This 1975 early David Mamet play, his 4th (of 24!), certainly attracts star actors. I saw Al Pacino at the Duke of Yorks in 1984 and William H Macy (a pupil of Mamet) at the Donmar in 2000, both playing Teach, and now it’s Damian Lewis as Teach with both John Goodman and Tom Sturridge in the other roles! I suspect it’s more fun to play than to watch.

Set in a Chicago junk shop (brilliantly claustrophobic design from Paul Wills) it occupies a very man’s world of gambling and bravado, on the fringes of crime. Proprietor Don thinks he may have undersold a coin (which gives the play its title) and plots to rob it back (with others) with the help of friends Teach and Fletcher (who we don’t meet). It later transpires that his young gofer Bob may already have done so. The relationship between Don and Bob came over much more in this production, Don very fatherly with hints of perhaps more than that, and Teach is more larger than life, more comic. I’m not sure the play is wearing well, though. We see a lot more of this type of work today, so it seems less fresh and original. To be honest, I found it a bit dull this time around.

I thought both John Goodman and Tom Sturridge, in a very physical performance, were outstanding, but I felt Damian Lewis overacted a bit, stealing the centre of attention but not deserving of it. Director Daniel Evans staging is good, emphasising the subtlety and complexity of the relationships.

Good to see work like this, with such good actors, selling out on the West End; without them I couldn’t honestly say it would be a worthwhile revival.

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My response to this new David Mamet piece is probably affected by having seen Chimerica, a stunning new play, the night before. It’s also the second American play in six days (Disgraced at the Bush is the other) which felt cold & cynical and made me feel more than a bit manipulated.

If you like lawyers before you see this, you probably won’t after. I didn’t, so it confirmed all my prejudices. Money grabbing bastards with few principles for whom truth and justice are barely relevant.

White billionaire Charles Strickland may or may not have raped a black girl in a hotel room. He leaves one lawyer and asks another to take on his case. The two partners – one white, one black – and their young black trainee Susan debate the case, its merits, possible outcomes and whether they should take it on. It’s an interesting debate but to me it seems more about the flaws of the legal system than racism. Right and wrong don’t figure as much as what will and won’t work and truth seems irrelevant.

Tim Shorthall’s giant wood-panelled book-lined office is superb and the performances are all excellent (particularly Jasper Britton, for whom this is a career high in my view). I engaged with the debate at an intellectual level but unlike Oleanna, the Mamet play I feel its closest to, I didn’t really care about anyone and it didn’t ignite a passion in me, which plays like this usually do.

It’s clever and balanced, but without warmth and too cool and clinical for my liking.

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Though it’s great to see fringe venues like The Bush, The Finborough and The Cock Tavern sold out, it does mean you have to plan ahead a bit more. Fresh from their giant-killing Olivier award for Best Opera Production, the enterprising Cock Tavern has a pair of Tennessee Williams world premieres, of which this is the first.

It has a surreal quality also found in Camino Real. It’s a play-within-a-play and even though I knew this, I was still surprised when ‘the director’ got up from his seat to my left and ‘the writer’ joined in from the back. The play within concerns a couple in a New Orleans apartment; he an over-sexed philanderer employed by gangsters and her a sometime fashion designer and serial victim. The play is stopped by the actors questioning dialogue and action which is when the writer, director and stage manager get involved.

I’m not really sure what TW was getting at in this short 70-minute one-acter, but it was intriguing and watchable. It’s all very Pirandellian (the Italian playwright is even referenced by TW in the play). The situation and dialogue were more explicit and racier than his norm, showing how he might have developed had he been writing beyond this late piece from the early 70’s. In many ways, it provides a missing link in the line of American drama from TW to Shepherd and Mamet.

Physically semi-naked and emotionally naked, Lewis Hayes and Shelley Lang do very well in making the play within’s characters believable in the intimacy of this tiny theatre. Hamish MacDougall’s direction makes excellent use of the space and manages to balance the real with the surreal and the plays within and without.

Well worth a trip to Kilburn, but it’s probably now sold out!

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This is an adaptation, by the prolific Richard Bean (whose new play The Big Fellah also opens this week), of David Mamet’s excellent film about con men.

It’s staged at the Almeida on a clever two-tier set by Peter McKintosh in an interval free 100-minute production with atmospheric electric guitar music by Django Bates played live.  Lindsay Posner’s production is well paced. There are eight good performances, with Nancy Carroll and Amanda Drew particularly effective (the latter in two roles).

I enjoyed the evening and I admired the skills of all involved, but I can’t really see how staging it adds anything to the film, so I’m left with the question ‘why?’. That’s all really!

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